Affected Machines/Machines Affectees

Joe Scanlan, 1987

The works in this exhibition employ a wide variety of technology—fans, refrigerators, slide projectors, motors, pumps, blowers, and video—but they use these machines to refer to what is precisely not mechanical. They indicate a fascination with the laws of elementary physics through their invocation of natural processes such as growth and elemental changes in state. Water courses through the letters of the word “Passion” in Richard Baquie’s work, and blowers bear aloft an inflatable airplane. Alain Fleischer creates a wind tunnel in the gallery when he lines a corridor with fans. Nathalie Talec continues an ongoing exploration of cold and its representations, and Gerard Collin-Thiebaut explores light and distance.

In other cases, the machines take on anthropomorphism, as when Jean-Claude Ruggirello’s fragile constructions of machine-age refuse present a human vulnerability. Ange Leccia imbues two theatre lights with personality and mood by sitting them on chairs facing each other and calling the ensemble Conversation.

While all of this work addresses the nature vs. culture conflict, Hubert Duprat’s does so most directly. Transplanted from their natural environment, his displaced larvae are forced to adapt, and they build their cocoons out of the gold and jewels that he puts within their reach.

In the catalog essays that accompany this exhibit, these machines are situated within a long history of exhibited technology, the most famous exhibition being the Galerie des Machines at the World’s Fair of 1889, almost one hundred years ago. Descartes proposed “animal-machines” in the 1600’s, and a glance at science fiction classics proves that the fantasy of the animate machine has stayed with us over the centuries. While bridging the distance between a fine art tradition and a technological one, this work also undermines the economic logic of that technological tradition by presenting the viewer with machines that are not useful. It points to art as an unquantifiable entity in a culture that measures worth by use value.